Compared to dribbling, running with the ball requires different techniques. Firstly, the first touch of the player receiving the ball is all-important. The player should make sure that their first touch plays the ball forward using the top of the foot (lace area) and ensures they do not not have to break their running stride. If the player is receiving a pass from a team-mate, the latter must make sure that his pass allows the player to run smoothly onto the ball.

The first touch should play the ball well forward depending on the space available. If plenty of space is available, for example 30 metres, then the player can afford to play it several metres in front of himself. He should aim not to touch the ball too many times as this will break his rhythm. For a distance of 30 metres, around 3 touches is sufficient. If defenders are close by, the ball must not be played too far forward as these can then make a challenge. Once moving, many players find it preferable to play the ball with different parts of the foot (inside, outside & top).

The runner must always aim to run as straight and direct as possible. If the player is moving slowly with the ball, e.g. a defender bringing the ball out of defence, then the ball should be kept closer to the feet for better control and with less risk.

Once the ball has been controlled, the player must always keep their head up and use their peripheral vision to keep it under control whilst moving at optimum speed. A player who keeps his head down to look at the ball cannot know what is happening around them and thus will not be able to make any necessary decisions. It is these decisions that are important when running with the ball. Before each touch, the player must take a decision to carry on running or to play the ball (shoot, pass...).

Fig 1: Running with the ball

- Here the player is running at pace

- He is using the outside of his boot to play the ball forward and keep it under control

- His head is also up ready to assess the situation around him.

The whole art of running with the ball requires calm, smooth and unhurried actions. The player must be positive and stick with their decisions in order not to lose momentum. The coach can set up basic practices to observe performance. Simply playing the ball into a player to allow him to run onto it, move forward with the ball and encouraging him to change speed every so often (& direction...) will help develop running technique with the ball. The coach should always observe the first-touch, the ensuing touches and make sure the players head is always up.


Dribbling involves trying to beat an opponent while moving with the ball. Speed and trickery using feet and body to wrong foot the opponent are two useful means of achieving this. Dribbling relies on both technical and physical abilities such as the capacity to change speed/direction, agility and flexibility. Players should be encouraged to beat opponents in the attacking half of the field, be positive and not be put off by failure. A good attitude is vital in successful dribbling.

There are several major aspects of good dribbling technique:

- Initial first touch and close control: The first-touch is all important as this must set up the following dribble to immediately attack the defender whilst not allowing the him to successfully challenge for the ball. Dribbling involves close control as it requires a defender to be beaten, running with the ball requires space to be covered as quickly as possible. Beforehand, the player should also try to analyse the situation by taking a quick look around to judge the positions of opponents and team-mates.

Players should try if possible to start dribbling from a running position as it is easier to change direction and unbalance an opponent. If the ball is received when the player is stationary, starting off with a feint can help create the initial space to start dribbling.

How the player approaches the opponent is vital and should be full of controlled aggression. The player should run quickly and as directly as possible at the defender or if he is incorrectly positioned, run at the vital space in line to goal. The speed of the approach is important, running too fast can increase the difficulty of carrying out the wrong footing action and if a player is already moving at maximum speed, he will not be able to use a change of pace to get away from the defender. The aim is to maintain momentum.

- Unbalancing or tricking a defender: If the attacker receives the ball in a tight situation where little space is available or several defenders are covering, he will need to off-balance them or trick them using different techniques. Actions such as the "Matthews", "and "scissors" moves can help beat a defender. Players should also try exciting techniques such as the "nutmeg" where they play the ball through the opponents legs or try playing the ball around and past an opponent to use their pace to run onto it.

The Matthews move - Involves moving the ball forwards with the right foot toward your left side, the should left shoulder is dropped at the same time to feint a move to the left. Then move the right foot behind the ball and play it with the outside of your foot past the opponent and accelerate out - see photo below (place mouse cursor over photo to visualise).

The scissors move - Here the player has the ball slightly positioned to the side and in front, the player pretends to play the ball with the outside of his foot but steps over it. He then plays the ball with the outside of his other foot whilst accelerating away - see photo below (place mouse cursor over photo to visualise).

Fig 2: Here, the player is walking through the
Matthews move, he drops his shoulder as if to
move to the left, he then moves to the right.

Fig 3: The step over or scissors move is an excellent
means of unbalancing a defender, here,
the player
(who is stationary) practices the technique in a simple "exaggerated" way . Once he has the "feel" of the
technique, it can then be practised whilst moving.

Players should avoid looking at the ball as much as possible in order to hide their intentions. When using different tricks, the player should perform the action just out of tackling range. Try to perform the trick to take the defender out of the line he is defending to open up the most direct route to goal. For example, if a player is in a wing area, he could feint to go down the wing but cut inside towards goal. The ball should be played past the defender to force him to turn 180° to provide less time to recover and get back into a goal-side position.

- Change of direction/pace: The Matthews move uses a distinct change of direction to beat opponents. Players need to master at least one dribbling technique which involves changing direction to wrong foot defenders. Once the defender is on the wrong-foot, the attacker must accelerate away as quickly as possible. As mentioned earlier, moving too quickly will prevent any change of pace. Players must be positive in carrying out their trick and then aggressive when accelerating past the defender.

Successful dribbling technique will only be possible once a player has developed a general "feel" for the ball through constant practice and games. Players can easily practice dribbling techniques on their own, younger players can learn from trying to copy the actions of star players. However the coach will need to introduce various drills to improve dribbling ability whilst remembering that these moves need to be experienced and improved upon in actual one-on-one situations.

- Dribble randomly or in set directions around cones or poles.
- Players can dribble and the coach shouts out different moves to be carried out (such as Matthews, scissors...) and how the ball is to be played, left/right foot, inside/outside of foot.
- Players can dribble behind the coach or another player and have to follow their different movements (changes in direction and speed).
- Dribbling in one versus one situations in restricted areas. For animated examples of these and more drills, visit our coaching archive.

Problems may occur when dribbling the ball especially in younger players. For example, the player may lack in confidence or not be aggressive enough in his actions or may try techniques which he is neither physically nor technically capable of carrying out. The coach may need to spend time individually with the player to demonstrate and work on his techniques both from a technical and mental point of view.

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